The march to kick-off continues as we are now just one month away from North Dakota State’s visit to Manhattan and we’re celebrating with a double dose of player previews today. Isaiah Williams and Taylor Hilgers, two incoming freshmen, were both listed as #31 on the spring roster and will be battling to secure that spot once the season starts.
Williams is one of several players from the powerhouse Skyline High School in Dallas, Texas making the jump to the collegiate level after graduating last spring. (Bit of trivia: from 2006-2012, ten linebackers from Skyline were signed to FBS schools – and nine of those were for ranked BCS programs). A three-star athlete, the inside linebacker was ranked the #41 best player at the position by ESPN and the 118th best recruit in the State of Texas. His 225 pound frame is a tackling machine, and ESPN rated him as excellent at both diagnosing plays and tackling – two of the most important skills for the position.
Williams hopes to one day be as impactful as the departed Arthur Brown, although he brings a decidedly different skill set. Brown was extremely rangy and a very sure tackler, while Williams is a half step slower but can absolutely blow up ball carriers. Two things they share are the ability to anticipate plays before they unfold and a dedication to their craft – ESPN’s scouting report noted that Skyline’s recruiting coordinator Jason Garrett described him as “a humble kid who’s developing his work ethic. He’s a coachable young man, and he’s accepted the challenge of carrying that mantle that’s been set forth in front of him by the kids who came before him.” That was after his junior year, when he was already benching 300 pounds and squatting over 400.
Williams is a versatile player, and lined up at defensive end his junior year before playing linebacker as a senior. He was second at ILB behind then-senior Domenic Spencer who went on to sign with UCF, but had so much talent his coaches couldn’t envision not starting him on the field. The current Wildcat depth at the linebacker position should allow Williams to redshirt his first year on campus, but he looks to be a valuable contributor in coming seasons.
Hilgers doesn’t have a lot of information out there on him, and I’m not sure how highly recruited he was. A Manhattan native, it looks like he chose to walk on to him hometown team and compete for a roster spot, but he certainly offers an interesting body for the position. At 5’9″ and 175, he appears born to set up in the slot position. An early graduate, he came to K-State a semester early and was with the Wildcats for the Spring Game where he was targeted twice but did not record a reception.
Hilgers may have enrolled early to get a jump start in the weight room, as the former wrestler was stunted by cutting a lot of weight for the sport. A member of the 6A State Champion Manhattan High School program, he placed 5th his junior year at 138 pounds and was consistently ranked throughout the season. As a cross country runner in high school who wrestled more for comedic effect than as a competitive athlete I never dealt with the prospect of lifting all fall only to drop loads of weight once football season was over, but can appreciate the toll it must have taken on his body to fluctuate that much.
As far as his high school football career, the most I could dig up was that he was promoted to varsity his sophomore year for Manhattan when the Indians went undefeated in the regular season only to fall to Dodge City in the playoffs. If anyone can shed some more light on his high school career we’ll welcome the information with open arms. Otherwise, we’ll be watching to see if his dedication in arriving on campus a semester early to fight for a roster spot can help him turn heads and secure a scholarship.
To work backwards in the countdown, visit 32 Days, where we preview LB Dakorey Johnson.